Marian Central’s defense was in solid control of Hillcrest’s offense the night of Nov. 4, when the Hurricanes won their second-round game in the IHSA Class 5A football playoffs 30-14.

The only points in the first half came from an 11-yard pass to Marian Central’s A.J. Golembiewski by quarterback Gavin Scott and an extra point kick by Matt Darbro. The ’Canes moved the ball well on offense during the first half but failed to score after a number of otherwise successful drives. At the same time, their defense was able to keep Hillcrest at bay, dominating possession and yards allowed during the first half.

The second half didn’t start off as well for the ’Canes. Hillcrest’s Marcus Garrett contributed two scores with a 75-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and less than four minutes later, a 54-yard pass reception for a touchdown.

Late in the third quarter with the ball on the Hillcrest 15, the ’Canes were in position to score when Scott left the game limping. Freshman Patsy Ricciardi came in as quarterback and helped the team stay in position to score on a 35-yard Darbro field goal. From this point forward, it was all ’Canes. Ricciardi found his rhythm over the next couple of drives and led the ’Canes to another 20 points in the fourth quarter, including a 2-yard touchdown run. 

“He’s a unique freshman. He’s got the competitive look in his eye of a veteran player,” Hurricanes coach Mike Maloney said about Ricciardi.

“My dad’s been preparing me since I was little just in case this moment happens. He said you [either] come home [with] your shield or [on it],” said Ricciardi.

Brian Niemaszek finished the game with a career high 205 rushing yards on 20 attempts. Greg Silva scored the final touchdown of the game with 1:49 left in the fourth on a 1-yard run.

The ’Canes’ defense was unstoppable in the fourth, featuring sustained pressure by Zack Gustafson contributing a sack, along with junior Nick Tegtman’s interception towards the end of the game. At one point, Hillcrest went for it on fourth down three series in a row and the ’Canes stopped them each time. Overall, more passes were nearly intercepted by the ‘Canes than completed by Hillcrest.

Marian Central (7-4) is one of only two teams alive in the playoffs from the tough East Suburban Catholic Conference. The ’Canes will take on Vernon Hills (8-3) Saturday, Nov. 12, at Vernon Hills, with the winner moving on to the semifinals.

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